How Stress Affects Your Sleep
Millions of Brits are going about their business each day feeling shattered. All we need is a good night’s sleep, but when night comes, all those little details flood through our minds.
It’s a perpetual cycle. You’re tired, and that makes you more stressed, but then that stress stops you getting the sleep you need each night.
Put simply, stress and sleep don’t go together. If you have too much of the former, it’s very likely you’ll struggle with the latter.
Stress and sleep (or lack of) in the UK
According to our Sleep Wellness Survey, anxiety is the biggest reason why Brits can’t sleep with 39.4% of us struggling with it when we should be sleeping. Family stress at 34.3% and work stress at 28.4% are also in the top four reasons for sleep problems.
For us Brits, stress is clearly impacting our sleeping patterns. But why?
Well, there are clear and acknowledged medical reasons as to why it’s difficult to break the stress and lack of sleep cycle.
Not sleeping at night causes an increase of stress hormones within the body. The chemicals in your brain associated with deep sleep are the same ones that tell your body to stop producing stress hormones. That means that, if you don’t get enough deep sleep, your body will go on freely producing these hormones, raising your level of stress in the process.
This is worsened by the fact that levels of stress hormone tend to reach their peak in the evening. That’s exactly the time you should be getting ready to sleep and the reason why problems seem so much harder to solve right before bed (or during the night on broken sleep).
When this combination hits, resulting in a lack of sleep, it’s only going to get worse.
It’s therefore so important to break the cycle.
What are the signs of stress I should be looking out for?
If you feel like you’re starting to get stressed in your day to day life, look for the following symptoms:
Physical symptoms include:
- Low energy
- Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
- Upset stomach, including diarrhoea
- Aches, pains and tense muscles
Emotional systems include:
- Easily agitated and moody
- Having difficulty relaxing and unwinding
- Low self-esteem
- Felling overwhelmed and out of control
It’s also likely your tiredness will make it harder to deal with daily problems, you’ll feel exhausted, have difficulty concentrating at home, at work and when driving, and your relationships may well come under strain.
Breaking the cycle – stress management
We already know the cycle can be very hard to break, but it is doable.
You should always remember, however, that you’re not going to break it simply by doing the same things you’re currently doing. You need to change things up to have any chance.
The first stage is to try and remove the stress from your life, or at least make a decision to combat it. It could be as drastic as finding a new job, or as simple as confiding in a loved one about a specific issue. Tackling it head on rather than continuing to worry will always help to make a difference.
Breaking the cycle – sleep management
Then you’ll need to look critically at your sleep and your night-time routine. Again, change is needed. This could include:
- Meditating or trying relaxing techniques before bed
- Changing your diet, avoiding heavy carbs, caffeine and sugar in the evening
- Exercising daily
- Creating a sanctuary in your bedroom, free of clutter and designed purely with comfort in mind
- Changing your mattress, duvet or pillows to boost your bedtime comfort
- Developing a bedtime routine including going to bed and waking at the same time daily, and avoiding long lie-ins at the weekend
- Cutting out the consumption of any alcohol
It goes without saying that a lack of sleep from stress can be debilitating and begin to affect all areas of your life. But by taking control and making some changes, you really can break the cycle.